« PreviousContinue »
For a moment the pretty girl was silent, and then she asked:
“ Father, if you were an English prisoner, would you not escape if you could ?”
After a few moments' silence, the father admitted:
“I would. I deem it the proper thing for every Frenchman to escape our common enemy, the English, and render what service he can to his coun
“Will you not give equal privilege to the English?”
“But they have departed from the true faith.”
“ They think they are right and you wrong. Give to them the same freedom of thought you would ask for yourself.”
“By the mass! Adele, you plead their cause well.”
“No, father; I plead the cause of both. I am a Catholic; but I do believe it is more a matter of contention for lands and supremacy in the New World than religion which brought about this war.”
The father found himself unable to cope with his daughter and consequently changed the subject.
Days wore on; weeks passed, and nothing was heard of No. 39. Perhaps, after all, he had only
escaped prison to meet with death in some terrible form, she thought. Then she shuddered as she recalled the many dangers he would have to undergo in the wilderness to escape from Canada. Often, as she stood by the gate in front of her father's house, her young mind dwelt on the stranger, and at such times she found herself humming the song of the voyageur :
“ L'amour me réveille."
The weeks and months wore on into years, and peace had been declared. It was a happy restoration and the French in Acadia, though still under the English yoke, found it mild. Their religion was tolerated, and sometimes even patriotic French songs were sung.
One fine summer day, Adele astonished her father by the assertion that she was going to visit Port Royal. What had put that strange whim into her head?
The father tried to dissuade her; but Adele was resolved. She went by land through a wilderness, attended only by some faithful servants and a half-blood guide. Adele hoped to gain some information of the man whose freedom she had · procured.
“He is an Englishman, and he will go to an English settlement,” she thought. :
To a person who has witnessed all the changes
which have taken place in the western country since its first settlement, its former appearance is like a dream, or romance. He will find it difficult to realize the features of that wilderness which was the abode of his infant days. The little cabin of his father no longer exists. The little field and truck patch, which gave him a scanty supply of coarse bread and vegetables, have been swallowed up in the extended meadow, orchard or grain field. The rude fort in which his people had resided so many painful summers has vanished, and, “like the baseless fabric of a vision, left not a wreck behind."
A prominent feature of the wilderness through which Adele and her little retinue made their way was solitude. Those who plunged into the bosom of this forest left behind them not only the busy hum of men, but domesticated animal life generally. The parting rays of the setting sun did not receive the requiem of the feathered songsters of the grove, nor was the blushing aurora ushered in by the shrill clarion of the chanticleer. The solitude of the night was broken only by the howl of the wolf, the melancholy moan of the ill-boding owl, or the terrible shriek of the panther. Even the faithful dog, the only steadfast companion of man among the brute creation, partook of the silence of the desert. The discipline of his master forbade him to bark, or move, but in obedience to his command, and his native sagacity soon taught him the propriety of obedience to this severe government. The day was, if possible, more solitary than the night. The gobble of the wild turkey, the croaking of the raven, or the woodpecker, tapping on some hollow tree, did not do much to enliven the dreary scene. The various tribes of singing birds are not inhabitants of the wilderness. Not being carnivorous, they must be fed by the labors of man. At any rate, they have never existed far from human habitations, and have always followed up civilization. Dense, dark and dreary was the immense expanse of forest which Adele and her faithful servants were compelled to traverse.
At last, Port Royal, or Annapolis, was reacheid, and the mademoiselle remained there several days, forming the acquaintance of many of the English people and making many strange inquiries that puzzled wise heads.
Her long, tiresome mission was ended, and a fruitless one it proved. She was compelled to return home heavy-hearted.
“He is dead,” she sighed. “Did he live, he would have kept his word with me. He would have come to Grand Pre.”
Nothing could shake her unbounded faith in the man whom she had rescued from slavery.
It was when the heats of noon died gradually away from the earth, that Adele and her small retinue set out on their return homeward. De Bray, the Coureur des Bois, declared that they would have a storm.
Their road lay among murmuring pines and hemlock, grown old and moss-covered, through dark aisles, of which the wood contained many. With her waiting-maid at her side, De Bray in front and the others bringing up the rear, the mademoiselle continued her journey.
The day waxed and waned, and still the little cavalcade was far from the home of the mistress. The sun was setting in the old Acadian forest. The few shafts of sunlight that had pierced their pillared gloom from out the billowy clouds were lost in fathomless depths, or splintered their ineffectual lances on the trunks of the tall pine trees. For a time, the sombre gray of fallen branches, which matted the echoless aisles, still seemed to hold a faint glow of the dying day; but this soon passed, as light and color fled upward. The dark, interlaced tree-tops, that had all day made an impenetrable shade, broke into fire here and there; their dead and barren top branches glittered, faded and went utterly out. A weird twilight, that seemed born of the wood itself, slowly filled up and possessed the aisles. The straight, tall trunks